The United States Supreme Court’s historic decision that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry has set off a significant wave of reaction in the country, both positive and negative. This could be the most polarizing topic that has divided Americans in many years.
In case you are not familiar with the Obergefell case, a same-sex couple sought recognition of their Maryland marriage license in Ohio. The former state permits same sex marriage while the latter state makes it illegal. After being combined with other similar suits and winding its way through the lower federal courts, the high court settled the question in a 5-4 decision in favor of the marriage of same-sex couples.
The decision, however, will not be the end of the story. It merely opens the door for future litigation over issues of sexual orientation. There are a number of other issues in society that bring marriage into play and that will likely be the next battleground on the same sex- marriage and sexual orientation front. A notable one will be the anti-discrimination laws that currently prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. The increased number of same-sex couples who will be legally recognized as a result of Obergefell will increase their visibility in the workplace.
Currently, anti-discrimination laws at the federal level and in most every state do not forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Obergefell does not change that. It only speaks to the issuance of marriage licenses and the recognition of such marriages from other states. It is likely that suits will arise alleging discrimination in employment, housing, and other matters based on sexual orientation. Even though the anti-discrimination laws were not changed by Obergefell, same-sex couples will likely expect to be free from sexual discrimination in Chico because of the decision.
Despite what many may see as the handwriting on the wall, lower courts in some jurisdictions may find that gender discrimination is not prohibited by law. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, however, has put its writing on the wall. It has announced that it considers discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be a form of gender discrimination. It remains to be seen whether the courts respect the EEOC’s position. In the end, and in the absence of legislative action by Congress and/or state legislatures, it will be up to the United States Supreme Court and the state supreme courts to decide whether such discrimination is unconstitutional.
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